Interview with Alexey Medvedev – Animation Supervisor

New interview! Hot off the presses! I’m really excited to share this interview with Alexey Medvedev, Animation Supervisor at Wizart Animation – TV Series Department. Alexey is my Supervisor on the TV show YOKO. I’ve worked with Alexey for about 3 years now, and it has been awesome! I owe a lot of my improvement in my animation abilities to him. Alexey has a huge passion for animation and also a great eye for detail. His feedback on my shots and guidance really helped me grow as a animator and push my skills. He is a great guy to work with and really knows how to lead a team of animators. I hope you all will enjoy this interview with him, he has some really great answers. First though, check out his demo reel below:

Alexey Medvedev Demo Reel 2017:

 

Where are you from and how long have you been working as an animator?

I was born in Lugansk (Ukraine), but for more than 15 years, I’ve been living and working in Moscow (Russia).

Have you always worked in the animation industry, or did you have any other jobs before becoming an animator?

I have a Master’s Degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Project Management, however, I did not work in any of those fields. Ever since high school I really loved music and planned to do it all my life, but my parents said that music is just a hobby and you need some real education… bla-bla-bla.. I know that many of us have been in the same situation. So, I went to University to study Political Science, as my parents wanted. But, at the same time continued to learn music and play in a band.

After University, myself and fellow band-members decided to level up and move from Lugansk to Moscow! The city of big possibilities and broken dreams. You can actually find me behind the keyboard in this video from 2002 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2-cb9sM4E

Sadly, this trip ended as a total epic fail. We were all good friends in Lugansk, but when we moved to Moscow and forced to live all together (5 men) in one small room in the hostel it became difficult. We were not ready for that new big family. So, after one year our band broke-up. Moscow broke our dreams to become famous stars and we parted just as friends. In that moment I understood, that I never want to depend on anyone in this life, and I stopped playing music.

How did you learn animation? Did you go to school for it?

After Moscow,  I came back in Lugansk. My mother convinced me to enroll in the Public Administration Magistracy and get a Master’s Degree in Project Management. But during all those boring lectures about politics and management I read the book “3Ds Max Bible” and started to learn Photoshop. I did not have a PC at home, I just read this book all the time. Sometimes I was given the opportunity to work on the PCs of my friends as well. I often tell this story to young people, who have iPhone 6S, MacBook Pro and more yet, they tell me that they cannot learn or do something 🙂

So, I got my Master’s Degree in Project Management and came back to Moscow. Some of my friends helped me to get a job as a Junior Modelling Artist in a small animation studio. At that time I could create models of sofas and vases and I thought that I was a God in modelling! But, once in the studio I realized it was quite the opposite..

This was around 2004, and I had worked there for about a year when my boss made an offer for me to try animation. (Actually, it happened because he had just fired another animator. Yeah, crazy times…) So, that is how I became an animator.

After that, I spent many years learning and studying animation by myself. In Russia there was no special animation schools and there was almost no information on the internet back then to learn from either. After 5 years of my blind practice, Sasha Dorogov, a famous Russian animator who worked at Disney for more than 15 years came back to Russia. Sasha started to teach animation here in Russia. I was not his student directly, but got a lot of information from my friends. It was like a breath of fresh air after being imprisoned in a stuffy cave.

Since that time I have worked on many projects! Then one day, a friend of mine who worked as a producer in the new series department of Wizart Animation made me an offer to join their team as a Supervising Animator. They were starting a a new co-production Russian/Spanish TV Show called “Yoko”. I decided to give it a try and now it has been almost 4 years that I’ve been doing it!

What is a typical day like as an Animation Supervisor?

Actually, my working day is not that big of differences compared with a regular animator’s day. I’m also looking at animation all day!

How is working for TV different from working on feature films?

I think the main differences are that TV has small production teams and is more forgiving in production mistakes, it also has less strict quality requirements. It’s like comparing a small fishing boat and the Titanic, really. Also, when you are working on feature, you know that the audience will see the final result after several years and you do not actually know if it will be successful or not. As said Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Studios said “Even we cannot predict success of our movies.”

What is different from being a Supervisor versus a regular animator on a show?

Here I can point two main exceptions:

  1. I need to hire the animation team and organize their work.
  2. I do almost no animating myself. Instead, I spend most of the time reviewing other animators work.

Also, there are other responsibilities that are important for a supervisor, because you have to stay between your team and the Director. It is the Supervisor’s job to transfer clear information from the Director to the team and constantly monitor the quality of animation according to the Director’s and Producer’s requirements. Sometimes, it’s not easy either! Almost always animators on your team have different experience levels and you may spend 80% of your time reviewing 20% of the animators to the get necessary quality.

How is it working with a team of remote animators on Yoko?

On “Yoko” we had 2 teams of animators – one Russian and a second international one. I’m working with the foreign animators. It was a big challenge for me, because it was first time I needed to communicate in English. Also sometimes I needed to work nights through the different time zones.

Do you think using remote animators is helpful for a studio?

Definitely yes. The main reason why studios are working with freelancers is to save money. This is because freelancers often get their salary by episodes with a fixed fee.

Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on in your career?

My favorite project for this moment is “August 2008” created by studio MainRoad|Post http://mrpost.ru/projects/28

It was the first Russian movie with a lot of scenes involving character animation. For me, as an animator, it was a big level up! Also, working with MainRoad|Post was the best time of my life. I call them the “Russian ILM” 🙂

What do you do outside of animation to stay motivated and creative?

I’m an ordinary person. Sometimes I get frustrated with the work as well. But, when I return to the animation, I realize: what may be better than this? Damn it, I have the best profession in the world!

Do you have any advice you can offer newer animators that want to work in the industry?

I can say only one thing, beginners should spend a lot of time and attention to learn and practice the “animation basics”.  A person, who may perfectly animate a bouncing ball, can rule the world! 🙂

 

Thanks again to Alexey for taking the time to write out these great answers! I hope everyone enjoyed this interview and please, if you would like to reach-out to Alexey, below is his IMDB and Linked-In page.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2324626/?ref_=nv_sr_1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexey-medvedev-831b3376/

 

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Interview with Chris Mayne – Freelance Animator

Chris Mayne Banner

I thought I’d start off the series of interviews with the one and only Mr. Chris Mayne! I first met Chris when I was in my second class at Animation Mentor. He was always very active on the school forums and facebook pages. When I learned he lived in Kansas (a city not typically known for a large animation industry) I was very interested to learn how he still managed to have a such an awesome career in Animation! I wrote Chris an email back then asking for tips and advice on navigating the animation industry as a remote/freelance artist and he gave me some really great information. I directly contribute this advice to my ability to land a good freelance gig shortly after finishing Animation Mentor.

I had the pleasure of working with Chris on the TV series “Yoko” for Wizart Animation. He is an amazing animator and just really fun guy to work with. He also is extremely generous with his time and effort to help others. He maintains an extensive spreadsheet with tons of Animation Industry Job Postings and keeps it up-to-date very frequently. Please, before reading the interview, check out some of his awesome work in his demo reel below!

Lets get started…

  • Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?
    • I’m from Overland Park, Kansas and have been animating for a little over 8 years now.
  • What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?
    • I’ve always been interested in animation but honestly didn’t really give a lot of thought to becoming a professional animator until later in my life. I graduated from college with a marketing degree and worked various jobs for a few years that I just wasn’t happy doing. I knew a change was needed. While watching The Incredibles in the theater, that was when the heavens parted, choirs were singing, and it just hit me that I could be doing THAT for a living.
  • Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?
    • My adventure in learning how to animate started at the Academy of Art but continued through Animation Mentor, where I was part of the 7th graduating class.
  • Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?
    • I actually started my career at a studio in Kansas City. It was the only time I’ve worked in-house. That studio is no longer operating, and I’ve been animating remotely for 7 years now.
  • Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?
    • I would say what I like the most about animating remotely is I feel I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I’ll split my time between the day and night to finish up my work if needed. Most studios really don’t mind when I’m animating as long as I get my stuff done. There are times I miss getting to work side by side with other artists though.  While I utilize things like Skype or Google Hangouts to chat, it’s just not quite the same as face-to-face interaction.
  • Do you keep a regular set of hours?
    • Not necessarily. Ideally I prefer to get all my animating done during the day; however, like I mentioned earlier, it’s the flexibility I enjoy in my schedule.
  • I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?
    • Take a vacation!!! Recharge your batteries. After that, you could do some personal animation tests. I’ll also try to do some additional networking and reach out to studios to see if I can nail down some future projects to work on.
  • In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?
    • Email is still the main method of communication for me although I have used Skype and/or Google Hangouts a little more often. I haven’t been involved on too many projects that use something like Shotgun; however, there have been a few. I’m seeing more and more job listings stating a desire for candidates to be familiar with Shotgun, Perforce, etc.
  • How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?
    • My first remote gig came courtesy of a former mentor I had in school. I stayed in touch with him after graduating and when my stint at the Kansas City studio came to an end, I made sure to contact him again to see if he maybe had any projects he needed help with. While he didn’t have one at the time, he did have a lead on another job with a friend of his.  Thankfully it worked out to where I got to be a part of that project, and ever since then I’ve been working from home.  I’ve found the most important thing through my years of freelancing is definitely networking and then staying in touch with who you connect with.  Stay on their radar so when they have a project (or know of one) needing extra help, your name is at or near the top of their list of who to contact.
  • I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?
    • Oh yeah, I’ve totally doubled up on projects and have even worked three at a time before. You need to know what you’re capable of doing. I hate turning down work and have definitely had my ass kicked a few times because I just couldn’t say “no”. Be smart with your planning/scheduling. If you don’t feel like you can take on additional work, don’t force it.  You may likely end up putting out crap animation and then the studio won’t want to work with you again.
  • What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?
    • Be proactive with creating a great reel. Talk to other artists and get their eyes on your work. Do lots and lots of networking. Talk to studios.  Start getting your name out there. You may snag some remote work in the process.
  • Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?
    • The only thing I’ve done for game studios is work on some promotional videos/trailers. I can’t say that was really any different, but it has afforded me the opportunity to work on some extremely fun characters.
  • Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?
    • I’ve only done animation in my career. When I first started learning animation, I did do a little modeling and rigging; however, that definitely wasn’t for me. It’s actually pretty scary to look at what I did. I’m going to go curl in to a ball in the corner of a room and cry a bit now that I’m thinking about that….I will say I have missed out on some jobs that required other skill sets so it can be advantageous to be able to do more than one thing.
  • Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?
    • I wish I had someone to handle the business side of things. It’s actually what I least like about all of this. I typically get contracts from the studios so there’s no need to make my own. Make sure you’re reading them though. Don’t just blindly sign your name. If you have questions, ask them. On a couple contracts I’ve been able to get some things added, reworded, or removed.  When it comes to invoicing, make sure you put an actual invoice number on it. It seems trivial, but studios will appreciate it.  I also try to put descriptive information on the invoice for services I performed, such as what project I was working on, dates I worked, etc. For taxes, I can only speak in regards to U.S. taxes. But keep track of everything, whether it’s paying for cloud storage, upgrading your computer, etc. Working at home, you can also deduct a portion of some of your bills, such as utilities.
  • What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?
    • I’m not surprised about the growth. For some, hopping around from state to state or country to country totally works for them. For others, it’s just not feasible for various reasons. The technology is already there though. More studios could utilize remote workers if they wanted to. I don’t know that it will ever be the norm, but I do at least stay encouraged that there has been an uptick in the number of studios willing to work with remote artists.
  • Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?
    • Definitely! The very first TV spot I ever worked on was for Lucky Charms cereal. That one will always hold a special place in my heart. I got to work on quite a few Lucky Charms commercials after that and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. I also did some animation on promotional videos for Lego Dimensions that I absolutely loved.  Coincidentally my kids got a huge kick out of that as they would sometimes watch me working on it. Animating Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle was such a blast. There are so many other projects I could easily name here, but for the sake of time and sanity of anyone reading this I’ll just leave it at those.
  • Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?
    • I love animating, but it has definitely been a difficult journey. You can’t get discouraged during the rough times. We all go through them, but we have such a supportive community. Take advantage of it. I’ve made so many friends in the industry and could never thank them enough for all the help they’ve given over the years.

Thanks so much for your time Chris!

If you would like to learn more about Chris, or contact him for work below is a link to his IMDB page and his linked-in account.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5284095/
LinkedIn:
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrismayneanimation/